Tuesday, July 24, 2012


It’s a special day for us.
Our Yellow Lab Kiki turns 16!

It was a sunny, warm August morning-16 years ago when Tom and I walked downtown to the Farmer’s Market located- at the time, next to the Orillia Opera House. We wanted to buy some fresh, local corn, bread and tomatoes.
The usual garden foodstuffs and home-baked goods.
There’s no place better- or handier, than the Market.

We shopped a bit and had our usual sausage from the cart owned by folks out in Marchmount.

Eventually, we wandered to the far end of the market. The Andrews Street, North end.
Just ahead of us we saw a young lady sitting on top of a wall of railroad ties. The ties were the edging for a raised flower bed. Her legs were crossed, the right one swinging carelessly back and forth and up and down in a nervous flight. She was puffing continuously on a cigarette.
Beneath her, huddling on the hot asphalt in the late morning sun was a pair of yellowish, Labrador puppies- only a few weeks old at best.

We swooned. We already had two cats and a mini-schnauzer at home. We couldn’t even think of another dog!

“Those puppies are in the hot sun.”- I said as we stood there.

“The reply was terse- “I’ve only been here a few minutes!”

There was no water and no shade. Tom and I looked at each other. We couldn’t possibly have another dog- especially a puppy. Our lives were just too busy.

“How old are they?”- I asked.

“They were born on July 25th. The mother was a yellow lad. The Dad a Black Lab.”
She offered the information freely then added- “I just don’t know what I am going to do if I can’t get rid of these dogs today!”
She puffed and puffed and shook her leg even more.
Tom and I could plainly tell having these puppies was a great inconvenience for her.

We stood there for a few moments, concerned for the pups’ welfare, when suddenly a pair of arms pushed between us and snapped up one of the pups- a male, and swiftly walked away. We turned to see who it was but the man was lost in the crowd. The young lady didn’t blink an eye she just puffed some more.

In another moment- without even turning to Tom, I snatched up the other puppy.
We turned and walked away.

What the hell would we do a new pup?  Maybe we could find her a good home.
Yes, that is what we would do. Find a good home for the little sweetheart who was already snuggling in close to my chest, whimpering just a bit.
“You’re Okay now…” I whispered in one soft ear.

We walked home.
Unbeknownst to us, we had already fallen in love.
Fate had swooped in and pushed me forward to scoop up the puppy.
Well, she couldn’t stay with this person- could she?
What might happen if she wasn’t able to “get rid of the puppy”?
I shuddered to think.

Once we got home, Tom offered a fresh bowl of water to the youngster.
Our Schnauzer Samantha sniffed at her.
The cats were indifferent.
We made a couple of calls.
“Nope, we’re not ready for a dog- yet!” was the reply to both calls we made.

Then, we thought about a neighbour who had recently told us she was thinking about getting a dog. That particular morning Nancy she was overseeing a carwash- in aid of a local girls hockey team, in the parking lot of a nearby plaza. We drove over.
The kids screamed when they saw the puppy.
We were hopeful but the answer was no.

As we drove back home we knew our hearts were melting.
We looked at each other and realized- this puppy was home.
She was ours- forever.

Back at the house we re-introduced our new arrival to Samantha. In a few moments the two of them were running around the yard.
The cats were curious but indifferent- still.

Now, we had to shop for a new puppy who was taking up residence at Pine Tree House. A crate, food and most important of all- a trip to the vet.
He could see us later that afternoon.

It turned out she was healthy and just about 5 weeks old. We knew her birthdate but little else.

What about a name?
Later that day it was carved in stone.
Waikiki actually, for she was the colour of the sand on Waikiki Beach, a favourite
destination of ours.
So, Kiki it was and is to this day 16 years later!

Kiki is still going strong.
We love her to bits as we do all our animals- past and present.
Kiki has seen them all with the exception of our original Samantha- an Irish Setter, who never made the trip to Orillia.
Felines Max, Lucky and our Darling Luma who passed a couple of years ago at 10 from cancer, all knew Kiki and she knew them.
Kiki was trained in part by our first Schnauzer Sam and now loves to be with her sister Missy, our Schnauzer of 7 years.

In fact when Samantha died, there was a period of time when Kiki was the lone canine in the house. She mourned as did we.
Soon after, our cat Max passed and Lucky- our tabby, was alone too. We thought about another Schnauzer but always thought it was just too soon.
We still missed Sam way too much to share our love with another dog.

Then, one December day when I was walking Kiki down a snow-covered trail near our house, there was a man and his young son walking a Schnauzer just ahead. As they approached Kiki was so excited.
This Schnauzer was a carbon copy of Samantha.
Same colouring. Same disposition.
Kiki was so happy.
She barked and turned and looked up at me.
We knew she missed Sam too.
With tears in my eyes, I explained to the man and his son why Kiki was so excited and why I was so emotional.
Kiki looked up at me again with those beautiful brown eyes of hers and she told me- it was time to get another Schnauzer…

When Tom arrived home from a flight, I told him what had happened and he agreed- not without a few tears, that it was indeed the time.
One day, we brought Missy home from “Whiskers”.

So, Miss Kiki is 16.
She is the most wonderful dog.
As yellow as the day we got her. Sometimes a small strip of black from her Dad peeks through the blonde hair along the length of her tail.
In summer she bleaches out to a whitish-blonde.
In fact we call her “Blondie” at times.
She is a very happy girl.

We have had some medical concerns.
She sprained a leg during the first week she was home, tumbling in the yard with Samantha!
The cast on her leg stayed in place for about two days.

When she was nine we started to see Liver problems. The vet we had been using for more than Kiki’s nine years was ready to write her off.
“She’s had a good life.”- He said.

Not good enough for us.
That’s when we found Dr. Stephen Choles at Barrie Animal Hospital.
A naturopath vet.
A few remedies.
A change in diet and Kiki was doing better.
In fact at 16 years old her physical a few weeks back, told us her liver levels were lower than last year and “normal” for her.
We are happy.
There’s a small heart murmur- but nothing to worry about right now. There is medication if things progress.

She has some arthritis in her hind quarters.
She looks like she’s in pain when she tries to lie down but she never whines or winces.
“She’s stoic!”- says Doctor Choles. “You’ll never know when things are wrong. She protects you. She will never let you know!”
How true!

Even though she is 16, Dr. Choles says to let her run and walk all she wants. It’s keeping her mobile.
I’ll say!
She still does 13 stairs and jumps onto the bed.
Kiki is amazing!

She loves to go for walks- even in the heat of summer.
We try to pass a day by when the heat from the pavement is unbearable but Kiki is adamant, so we go a couple of blocks with a few stops for a refreshing drink of water along the way. I make a cup with my hands and Tom pours in some water.

When Tom or I are not feeling well or he’s snoozing from the jetlag of a long flight, Kiki is there, snuggling up close.
Watching out for us.
Being there.
Loving us.

Her eyes tell the story.
There is something so special and “other-worldly” about those beautiful, brown,  puppy eyes. It is difficult to explain but it makes me all emotional to think of how she looks at us.
...and her puppy kisses.
Pure ambrosia!
Always freely given and in abundance.

So, my Dear Kiki- sweet 16.
Your Dads can’t believe it.
People who ask can’t believe it either.
“My! She’s in good shape!” they say.

She’s a little thinner these days.
It comes with age.
She’s down 4 pounds from last year.
Dr. Choles has switched her food around and we are being extra diligent, seeing she eats- and finishes her food, twice a day.

Happy Birthday Dear Kiki- and many more.

When she was 10 I whispered in her ear one night before bed.
“Kiki…”- I whispered softly, “You have to stay with your Dads until you’re 20- at least.
Then, we’ll talk.”

So far she’s right on schedule